As founder of iFocus Vision Center, Dr. Vivienne Velasco has served the needs of optometry patients in the Las Vegas community since 2009. In recognition of World Optometry Day and Women’s History Month, Dr. Velasco discusses her path to iFocus Vision Center, the lessons she learned along the way, how her practice has evolved, and what she loves most about Las Vegas.
When did you first develop an interest in optometry?
Dr. Vivienne Velasco: “I first became interested in optometry after college. I was working at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California as a molecular biology research assistant, and although I loved doing research, I was craving more human interaction. My boyfriend at the time had a sister and brother-in-law who were both optometrists working at a LASIK center and I was fortunate to start working there because of them. I became a laser technician and patient counselor and loved being part of the process to help patients see their best. I decided, after working there for a year, that I wanted to pursue optometry.”
What path did you take to get to where you are now?
Dr. Vivienne Velasco: “I already had my bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and physiology, but in order to get into optometry school I had to take a few prerequisite classes. I took those classes at night while working my full-time job, and I also took the Optometric Aptitude Test (OAT) which Is similar to the MCAT for medical school. After applying to the schools that I felt fit my needs, and being accepted at several, I decided on the Southern California College of Optometry because it was located In Fullerton, where I grew up. It was also one of the most prestigious optometry programs in the nation. After four years of optometry school I obtained a residency In ocular disease and low vision at the Southern Nevada Veterans Affairs clinic In Las Vegas. After that, I worked In various offices and modalities, from private practice, ophthalmology practice, and commercial; and from my experience, I felt that starting my own private practice was what fit me the best.”
What’s an important lesson that – if you could – you would go back and tell your younger self?
Dr. Vivienne Velasco: “Focus on your studies, not on romantic relationships. There will be plenty of time for that once school is over and your career is set.”
How has optometry evolved during your career? What’s the biggest change you can recall?
Dr. Vivienne Velasco: “Optometry has evolved quite a bit and is still evolving. When I graduated, there was only one state – Oklahoma — that allowed optometrists to use lasers to treat certain eye conditions. I was fortunate enough to train there during my residency and get licensed there for laser procedures. Now, there are several states that have expanded their scope of practice to include laser procedures, injections, vaccinations, and more oral medications that were not deemed as part of the optometry scope of practice when I graduated in 2005. I am hoping that Nevada will expand their scope of practice so that I can use my laser skills someday.
Another change is the Internet. When I graduated, purchasing glasses online was unheard of. Now there are many companies that are selling glasses online. Having to compete with online glasses retailers is something that I didn’t anticipate when I graduated. Of course, Internet sales are not going to go away, so I make sure that what we offer is superior quality, accurate measurements, and customer service that can’t be beat by online stores.”
Can you talk about Las Vegas and what it’s like to take care of patients in this community?
Dr. Vivienne Velasco: “Las Vegas Is such a dynamic city with an eclectic patient base. I see patients from all walks of life. When I first moved here, it seemed like the population that lived here treated it as a temporary place to live. Many patients in the beginning were transient and I knew that I was not going to see them again. As Las Vegas has grown, I am noticing that more of my patients are making this community their permanent home. I am honored to continue to see my established patients every year as well as the new patients who have chosen me to be their new eye care provider when they move here. What’s even more rewarding is being able to watch the patients I saw as kids, all grown up now going off to college, the military, joining the workforce, or starting families.”
iFocus Vision Center remains open with strict guidelines in place to protect patients and staff members. Patients with an urgent need are seen by appointment only, and iFocus offers curbside pickup for eyeglasses or contact lens refills. To schedule an appointment, contact us at 702-473-5660.